After a stressful few months around here, I was so ready to take a holiday. But I couldn’t take much time off work, so I was thrilled when the perfect solution fell in my lap – a mini-getaway to the gorgeous beach-side village of West Bay, and a stay at West Bay Lodge (speaker alert…steel drum music will start playing!)
I don’t spend much time in West Bay, as it mostly consists of large all-inclusive resorts and hordes of cruise shippers on call days…not really my thing. I hadn’t even noticed West Bay Lodge on my previous trips – it’s tucked up in the hillside across the street from the huge resorts on the beach. I actually think this makes it the perfect location, since it’s away from all the craziness of the resorts yet just a two minute walk to the beach and is right across the street from West Bay Mall. When the owners, Celeste and Milos, showed me around the property, they let me know right away that I wasn’t the first guest to describe the property as ‘a hidden gem’.
There are 8 bungalows nestled into the hillside that make up the resort. (They also have access to booking higher-end condos directly across the street, with full resort privileges for those looking for a granite-countertop & dishwasher fancy type holiday!) I was led up the lush pathway to #5.
This bungalow was much more than I expected – there was a large kitchen with a fridge, stove, microwave, toaster, coffee maker, blender and settings for 4 (I think it’s better stocked than my ‘furnished’ apartment), table/eating area, bed & bathroom…plus an entire extra bedroom! You could easily fit a family of four or two couples in there. There was also a flat screen TV and DVD player. Best of all, A/C throughout plus fans and big windows.
(I have to point out here that my visit happened on the lone rainy day in several weeks of sun. This did not fare well for most of the indoor & outdoor photography, but if it looks this inviting in the rain just imagine how great it would be in the sun!)
I was expecting things to be much more rustic, given the Honduran architecture, but I was pleasantly surprised with it being so modern and well-kept inside. The entire bungalow was also meticulously clean, which can be hard to find sometimes on Roatan. I loved the fresh, fluffy towels and the stone flooring in the shower!
Now can we take a second to talk about the porch?? Two hammocks perfect for lazing around with a book or on your iPad (wifi!), table & chairs, couch… and kitty Tommy included.
I have to take a second to talk about all the little touches in this room – I started writing them down because I noticed so many! Celeste and Milos have really thought about their guests and provided everything you could need during your stay: full size shampoo and conditioner in the bathroom as well as liquid hand soap (very eco-friendly touches…no little bottles), kleenex, coffee, robes, scented candles, drinking water, bedside lamps, magnifying mirror, full length mirror, real washcloths, wall clock, umbrellas, Zarafina tea maker, playing cards, full set of spices, saran wrap & tinfoil, hairdryer, iron, programmable safe and a fridge stocked with all kinds of soda and alcohol, as well as a basket of little snacks (these came in handy when I accidentally slept through dinner hours at the restaurant…popcorn and cookies for dinner! weeeeeeeeee) all at really reasonable ‘mini-bar’ prices. Also beer coozies with instructions to use them for poolside beers! Some of these might seem like standard hotel things to North American travelers but these little things are tough to find in this neck of the woods. A lot of thought has clearly gone into these bungalows, and it shows.
Should we take a look at the pool?
This is clearly the star of the show – this little pool and lounging area complete with overhanging mango and papaya trees was my favorite thing about West Bay Lodge. It’s centrally located in the middle of all the bungalows while still being far enough away from them that a late night dip with friends won’t disturb your neighbors as long as you’re not at drunk-teenager-decibels. Despite the rain, I got in the pool anyway and loved the little waterfall and all the different seating areas within the pool. I grabbed a pool noodle and floated around for almost an hour with zero distractions. It was the most relaxed I’ve been in weeks and I savored every second of it.
I also got a kick out of the wildlife hanging around the grounds. There are quite a few resident kitties, as well as parrots and even guatusa (a type of rabbit – see pic below).
All the staff I met at West Bay Lodge seemed to be genuinely happy to be working there and they all had great things to say about the owners. North American/European-style guest service is still relatively new on the island and many business owners who hire locals sometimes struggle to provide the level of service that most travelers to Roatan are accustomed to. However, there are no issues here. Staff is extremely friendly and helpful without being obtrusive and gladly answered all my questions without seeming perturbed (unfortunately a somewhat common occurrence on the island). This is a testament to the owners’ good hiring and training practices. The intimate and personal service is exemplified by offers from Celeste to grab groceries for you during one of her runs to the store or arranging for activities, or Milos’ infamous snorkeling tours for his guests. They also will help you coordinate scuba diving with the Bananarama Dive Center right across the street. Celeste and Milos also live on-site at the top of the hill, which is nice to know that you’ll always have someone there who is in charge in case of any emergencies.
Now, for those of you who are worried about not being right on the beach, here is the great news – walk out the door of your bungalow, across the street, down the road directly across the street for one minute and you will end up right in this spot:
Less than a 3 minute walk from your door is West Bay Beach, which I happen to think is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world (with gorgeous snorkeling right from shore), and you get to enjoy it without listening to all the drunk AI guests running around on the beach at night, crazy live music, or fighting through throngs of cruise shippers to get to your room.
Need I say more?
What you need to know:
- contact West Bay Lodge through their website or at 504-2445-5069 or their US number 503-761-7172
- check out their glowing reviews on TripAdvisor
- what to bring: your clothes, your swimsuit, and bug spray/sunscreen. Everything else is in your bungalow already.
- you can check out their rates here – the bungalow I stayed in is $135-145/night plus 16% taxes (check if there’s a special on). I think this is a great deal if you share between 4 people. Smaller bungalows for couples are around $100/night.
- there is an on-site restaurant and spa…they are highly recommended – check back later for my reviews of those! Breakfast is included – there is a small buffet of fruit, juice, coffee and yogurt as well as a choice between two daily hot specials made to order.
- please remember that tips are always appreciated by service staff in housekeeping, the restaurant and spa. If you plan on paying cash for tips (or anything else on Roatan) please bring new bills – our banks here will not accept ripped, old or torn bills, which in turn means the businesses here won’t accept them either so that hard-earned tip may not go anywhere if you use old bills.
- Banks also will not exchange anything but the Honduran lempira or US dollars, so please don’t tip or pay in any other currency, as it’s basically useless here (ask me about the time I accepted a huge tip in Canadian dollars before I found that out….)
- make sure to let them know Rika sent you 🙂
Rika’s Rating: highly recommended for anyone who wants to stay in West Bay but isn’t interested in a huge cookie-cutter resort. I would put my family up here if they came to visit me!
Disclaimer: West Bay Lodge generously hosted my stay, but my opinions are always my own no matter who is paying the bill!